By Sally Milano, USTA.com
2007 was a year to remember for America’s top junior players, with a number of big results at some of the most prestigious junior tournaments held during the year.
From Donald Young’s Wimbledon win to Madison Brengle’s appearances in two Grand Slam finals, our young players offered a peek at the future of American tennis with their impressive performances throughout the year in both singles and doubles competition.
Grace Min, Melanie Oudin, Rhyne Williams and Ryan Harrison are just some of the players who had phenomenal years in 2007. Let’s take a look back not only at their great accomplishments but also the achievements of many other talented young Americans who had banner years in 2007.
Oudin’s Outstanding Year
If anyone had a breakthrough year on the junior tennis circuit in 2007, it was certainly Melanie Oudin of Marietta, Ga.
The talented 16-year-old went undefeated on the ITF Junior Circuit for three months starting in early September, winning four straight tournaments – the Kentucky International Junior Tennis Derby in Lexington, Ky., the Pan American Closed ITF Championships in Tulsa, Okla., the USTA ITF Junior Circuit and the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships – and crafting a 26-match winning streak in the process.
The streak, which included a three-set win over world No. 1 Urszula Radwanska in the quarterfinals of the Orange Bowl, eventually came to an end in the Orange Bowl final, where she lost to Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal, 7-5, 6-3. She also teamed with Mallory Cecil to win the girls' 18s doubles title at the final Grade A event of the year.
Among her other results this year, Oudin picked up the first two gold balls of her career, when she won the singles title at the girls' 18 USTA Spring National Championships in March and the doubles championship at the girls' 18 USTA National Championships in August.
She also had success at the pro level, reaching singles quarterfinals at the $50,000 event in Lawrenceville, Ga., the $25,000 tournament in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and the $10,000 events in Hilton Head Island, S.C., and Houston – all tournaments held on the USTA Pro Circuit.
Overall in 2007, Oudin tallied a 33-6 singles and 22-6 doubles record in ITF play. She is currently ranked a career-high No. 4 in the ITF World Junior Rankings and is the top-ranked player in the USTA girls’ 18s.
Brengle Reaches Two Grand Slam Finals in 2007
Picking up where she left off in 2006, Madison Brengle had a phenomenal year once again in 2007, highlighted by reaching Grand Slam finals at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon junior championships.
In Melbourne, the native of Dover, Del., cruised through her first five matches without dropping a set, taking out two higher seeded players along the way – No. 8 Ksenia Pervak, 6-2, 6-1, in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Ksenia Milevskaya, 6-4, 7-5, in the semifinals. She played a high-quality, closely contested match in the final against top-seed and defending champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova but wasn’t able to take advantage on some big points and lost to the 15-year-old Russian in two tie-break sets, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3).
Brengle also had an outstanding week in London, where, seeded seventh she posted three straight-set victories in her first five matches, holding off some stiff competition in her second- and quarterfinal-round matches against Cindy Chala of France and No. 15 Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia by winning third-set tie-breaks. In the final, she jumped out to an early lead over No. 6 seed Urszula Radwanska of Poland, winning the first set, 6-2, but she couldn’t hold on for the win and eventually lost the match, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0.
In addition to her Australian Open and Wimbledon results, Brengle won the singles title at the Astrid Bowl, captured the doubles championship and reached the singles semifinals at the USTA International Spring Championships, and advanced to the singles round of 16 at the French Open.
The 17-year-old also had success at the professional level this year, capturing the first pro doubles title of her career with partner Kristy Frilling at the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Augusta, Ga., in October. In singles, she reached finals at the $25,000 events in Clearwater, Fla., and Hammond, La., and also advanced to quarterfinals at the $50,000 tournaments in La Quinta, Calif., St. Paul, Minn., and Charlottesville, Va.
Brengle, who recently earned a wild card into the 2008 Australian Open women’s main draw by winning an eight-player tournament, reached a career-high world junior ranking of No. 4 the week of Aug. 27 and is now listed at No. 10.
Donald Young Wins Wimbledon
Donald Young made the most of the one and only junior tournament that he competed in this year. The 18-year-old from Atlanta picked up his second career junior Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon, defeating boys' top seed Ignatik Uladzimir of Belarus, 7-5, 6-1, in the final. He won his first at the Australian Open in 2005, when he became the youngest player ever to capture a junior Slam title.
By winning at the All England Club, Young joined an illustrious group of tennis greats, including Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Tracy Austin, Stefan Edberg, Roger Federer, Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo, who also triumphed at Wimbledon during their junior careers.
Other than Wimbledon, Young spent the remainder of 2007 competing on the pro tour, where he notched outstanding results – among them, winning his first career Challenger singles title in Aptos, Calif., capturing doubles championships at the Tunica Resorts and Joplin Challengers and the Costa Rica Futures, and sweeping the singles and doubles crowns at the Little Rock Futures.
The talented lefty also gave a career-best Grand Slam performance in the US Open men’s main draw, in which he advanced to the third round before falling to Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez in four sets.
Young finished the year ranked 100th in the ATP rankings, a career high.
Harrison Wins Singles Title at Osaka Mayor’s Cup
In the biggest win of his young career to date, 15-year-old Ryan Harrison of New Braunfels, Texas, captured his first ITF Grade A title, winning in singles at the prestigious Osaka Mayor's Cup held in Japan in October.
Harrison was outstanding throughout the tournament, toppling seeded players in five of his six matches, including top-seeded Ricardo Urzua Rivera of Chile, 7-5, 6-2, in the round of 16. He dropped his only set of the week in the semifinals – a 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-1 win over No. 7 Mark Verryth of Australia – and then defeated No. 6 Tsung-Hua Yang of Chinese Taipei, 6-3, 6-4, for the championship.
By winning the title in Osaka, Harrison's ITF World Junior Ranking improved to a then career-high No. 43. Since then, his results include reaching the doubles semifinals and singles quarterfinals at the Orange Bowl and advancing to doubles semifinals at both the Yucatan World Cup 2007 and the Eddie Herr International.
Harrison, who also won consecutive ITF titles in May at the Grade 5 ITF Spring Circuit in Spring, Texas, and the Grade 4 ITF Spring Circuit, Texas, recorded an impressive 32-8 record in ITF Junior Circuit play in 2007. He is now ranked a career-high No. 27 in the world and 7th in the USTA boys’ 18s.
Min Wins Five Gold Balls in 2007
Thirteen-year-old Grace Min of Lawrenceville, Ga., put up phenomenal numbers in 2007, capturing an outstanding five gold balls during the year to give her six total so far in her young career.
Currently the top-ranked player in the country in the girls' 14s, Min picked up her first national title of the year in doubles at the girls' 14s Easter Bowl in April. She went on to sweep the girls' 14s singles and doubles titles at both the USTA National Clay Court Championships and the USTA National Hard Court Championships in July and August, defeating her doubles partner Whitney Kay in each singles final.
Min, who won her first career gold ball in doubles at the girls’ 12s USTA National Hard Court Championships in 2005, also picked up the first ITF 18-and-under title of her career this year, claiming the doubles championship at the USTA ITF Junior Circuit in Atlanta in September.
Among her other results in 2007, she won both the singles and doubles titles at the girls’ 16s USTA National Open Championships in Marietta, Ga., in May, took home the girls' 16s doubles title at the Eddie Herr International in November and reached the singles quarterfinals at the girls' 16s Orange Bowl in December.
Williams Wins Two ITF Junior Titles, First Pro Title of Career in 2007
Sixteen-year-old Rhyne Williams had a big year in 2007, establishing himself as one the top junior players in the world, while making a name for himself at the professional level, as well.
In junior play, the Knoxville, Tenn., native captured two ITF titles, winning in singles at the Easter Bowl - US Closed Championships and in doubles at the Yucatan World Cup 2007. His other results in 2007 include finishing runner-up in both singles and doubles at the USTA International Spring Championships and advancing to the singles semifinals at the 43rd Astrid Bowl.
On the USTA Pro Circuit, Williams picked up the first pro title of his career at the Pittsburgh Futures in July and then went on to reach quarterfinals at the Peoria, Ill., and Costa Mesa, Calif., Futures.
Currently ranked eighth in the USTA boys' 18s, Williams reached a career-high world junior ranking of No. 10 in June and is now listed at No. 20.
Damico, Glatch Shine at 2007 French Open
American men and women may have come up short at the 2007 French Open, but that sure wasn't the case for U.S. juniors. Kellen Damico had an outstanding tournament, with excellent results in both singles and doubles, and Alexa Glatch reached the final in the girls' doubles draw.
Damico, an 18-year-old from Parker, Colo., reached his third career Grand Slam doubles final at Roland Garros, teaming with home-country favorite Jonathan Eysseric of France. The No. 2-seeded duo, which had success together earlier in the year by winning the title at the ITF Grade A Casablanca Cup, did not drop a set in their first four matches of the tournament. They eventually fell in the final to Thomas Fabbiano of Italy and Andrei Karatchenia of Belarus, 6-4, 6-0.
In singles, Damico gave his best performance ever at a Grand Slam by advancing to the semifinals. As was the case in doubles, the talented right-hander, seeded 10th in the draw, cruised through his first four matches with straight-set victories in each. He came out strong in his semifinal match against Uladzimir Ignatik of Belarus, pulling out in front to a 6-1, 3-0 lead but couldn’t hold on and lost the match to the tournament's eventual champion, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Prior to the French Open, Damico had never advanced past the second round of a Grand Slam in singles competition. However, in doubles play last year, he reached the final at the Australian Open with partner Nate Schnugg, and then the duo went on to capture the championship at Wimbledon.
Damico played the final tournament of his stellar junior career at Wimbledon, where he advanced to the round of 16 in singles. The former world No. 5 began his freshman year at the University of Texas this fall and now competes for the Longhorns men's tennis team.
Glatch, who, like Damico, also had Grand Slam success in the past – she reached the US Open girls' singles and doubles finals in 2005 – concentrated mainly on competing at the pro level this year, taking home the singles title at the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Southlake, Texas, in July. But she returned to the junior circuit to play one tournament in 2007 at Roland Garros.
After losing a tough first-round match in singles to Simona Halep of Romania, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, the then 17-year-old California native focused her attention solely on doubles. Teaming with Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, the duo dominated their opponents in the first three rounds, dropping only eight games total to their competition.
In the semifinals against Russian Elena Chernyakova and Australian Jessica Moore, Glatch and Cirstea lost the first set in a tiebreak but then dictated play in the second and went on to win the match, 6-7 (5), 6-0, 10-7. They lost to third-seeds Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus and Urszula Radwanska of Poland, 6-1, 6-4, in the final.
Nicole Gibbs’ Red Hot Year
Nicole Gibbs has been one of the top young Americans competing on the junior tennis circuit over the last few years, and her performance in 2007 has been as strong as ever, with a number of outstanding results to add to her ever-growing resume.
Gibbs, 14, kicked off the year by reaching the singles final at Les Petits As and the singles semifinals at Teen Tennis, two of the most prestigious 14-and-under tournaments in the world. In March, she reached the first ITF 18-and-under final of her career at the Grade 3 event in Costa Rica and then, the following month, captured the girls' 16s singles title and finished in third place in doubles at the Easter Bowl, USTA Spring National Championships.
In August, Gibbs was named a member of the U.S. team that competed in World Junior Tennis, an ITF competition for players' aged 14-and-under, and helped lead the team to a first-place finish.
In addition to her outstanding junior results, she also showed promise on the pro circuit, when earlier this month, in just the third pro tournament of her career and after qualifying into the event, she captured her first pro title by winning the $10,000 ITF Circuit event in Mexico City, Mexico. Gibbs did not drop a set in the tournament and defeated Maria-Fernanda Alvarez-Teran, 7-5, 6-3, in the final.
Gibbs, who is originally from Cleveland and now resides in Los Angeles, has been ranked as high as No. 1 in the girls’ 12s and 14s since 2005. She is currently ranked 14th in the girls' 16s and 38th in the girls' 18s.
U.S. Girls Win World Junior Tennis Competition
2007 was a big year for team sports in the United States. In addition to the U.S. Davis Cup team bringing home the cup for the first time in 12 years last month, the American girls representing the country in the ITF's 14-and-under World Junior Tennis competition took home first place at the prestigious international event.
Team USA, comprised of Nicole Gibbs, Stephanie Vidov and Sloane Stephens and led by captain Wade McGuire, competed in the final of World Junior Tennis in Prostejov, Czech Republic, from Aug. 6-11. The top-seeded American girls went undefeated in the first three days of the round-robin competition, first beating host-country Czech Republic, followed by Colombia and then Indonesia, to advance to the semifinal round against the Slovak Republic.
After beating the fourth-seeded Slovakian team, 2-1, in the semis, the U.S. girls advanced to the final against No. 2 seed France, and once again, Team USA prevailed, defeating the No. 2 seeds by the score of 2-1.
In addition to the girls' success, the American boys also notched strong results at the event, as the team of Emmett Egger, Christian Harrison and Mika De Coster, led by captain Roger Smith, finished in third place.
Other junior highlights from 2007:
Current boys' 14 No. 1 Tennys Sandgren captured the first two gold balls of his career this year, winning boys' 16s singles titles at the USTA National Clay Court Championships and the USTA National Championships. James Bo Seal
, now ranked third in the boys' 16s, finished runner-up at five national tournaments in 2007, including the singles and doubles finals at both the boys' 16s Easter Bowl and USTA National Championships, as well as the doubles final at the USTA National Clay Court Championships.
A member of the third-place U.S. boys’ World Junior Tennis team, 14-year-old Emmett Egger reached the doubles final and singles quarterfinals at Les Petits As, as well as the doubles final at Teen Tennis. Later in the year, the sixth-ranked player in the boys’ 14s won the singles title and finished runner-up in doubles at the Easter Bowl.
Joseph Di Giulio, 12, the No. 1-ranked player in the boys' 12s, had a big year, with results that included winning the singles title and finishing runner-up in doubles at the Eddie Herr International. He also claimed the doubles championship and finished in third place in singles at the USTA Spring National Championships.
Sixteen-year-old Lauren Embree of Marco Island, Fla., now ranked third in the girls' 18s, reached five national championship finals in 2007, including singles and doubles finals at the both the USTA Spring National Championships and the USTA National Clay Court Championships and the doubles final at the USTA National Championships.
Asia Muhammed posted her best Grand Slam result to date at the US Open, where she advanced to the doubles semifinals with partner Kristy Frilling. Also this year, she won the doubles title at the Eddie Herr International, finished in third place in both singles and doubles at the USTA Spring National Championships and reached doubles finals at the Easter Bowl - US Closed Championships, as well as the USTA International Spring Championships and the USTA National Championships. The 16-year-old from Henderson, Nev., picked up her first pro singles title this year, as well, at the $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Houston.
Mallory Cecil of Spartanburg, S.C., ended 2007 ranked sixth in the USTA girls’ 18s and 22nd in the world, both career highs. The 17-year-old won four ITF events in 2007, kicking off the year by sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the Nicolas Machivello Copa Graiman and then, later, capturing the doubles championship (with Kristy Frilling) at the Easter Bowl - US Closed Championships. She ended the year by taking home the doubles title at the Orange Bowl (with Melanie Oudin), where she also reached the singles semifinals.
Sixteen-year-old Lilly Kimbell, the top-ranked player in the girls' 16s, capped off the year by sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the girls' 16s Orange Bowl. Kimbell, from from New Braunfels, Texas, also won the first gold ball of her career at the girls' 16 USTA National Hard Court Championships in August.
Ryan Harrison isn't the only talented young tennis player in the Harrison household. His 13-year-old brother Christian has had great success of his own, with a number of excellent performances on the junior circuit in 2007. Currently ranked 11th in the boys' 14s, Harrison finished runner-up in both singles and doubles at Les Petits As and advanced to the doubles final and singles semifinals at Teen Tennis, two of the premier international 14-and-under events held in early 2007. He also reached his first ITF final in doubles at the El Paso Youth Tennis Centre ITF Tournament, the boys'14s doubles final at the Easter Bowl, and the boys' 14s doubles semifinals at the Eddie Herr International.
At junior Wimbledon, with both Donald Young and Madison Brengle reaching the final, this year's tournament was the first since 1992 in which the United States had finalists in both the boys’ and girls’ singles championships.